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The Bitter Woods: The Battle of the Bulge Paperback – August 22, 1995

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In the fall of 1944, Hitler realized that the defeat of Germany was imminent. But instead of seeking peace, he launched a massive, last-ditch offensive against the Allied forces. The subsequent fight, know as the Battle of the Bulge, involved more than a million soldiers and some of the war's fiercest fighting. John S. D. Eisenhower, son of General Dwight D. Eisenhower, presents a comprehensive portrait of what happened that December, and how the Allies triumphed. In his introduction to this reprinted volume, Stephen E. Ambrose says that "The Bitter Woods will be read so long as the Republic lasts." That's high praise from America's leading historian of the Second World War, and this book is, in truth, one of the better World War II titles available.

About the Author

John S.D. Eisenhower's books include The Bitter Woods: The Battle of the Bulge, Agent of Destiny: The Life and Times of General Winfield Scott, and So Far from God: The U.S. War with Mexico, 1846–1848. He lives near Easton, Maryland.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 520 pages
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press; 1st Da Capo Press ed edition (August 22, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0306806525
  • ISBN-13: 978-0306806520
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.4 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (47 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #470,219 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

111 of 114 people found the following review helpful By Barron Laycock HALL OF FAME on June 10, 2000
Format: Paperback
There is certainly no shortage of excellent and detailed titles dealing with this subject, from Stephen Ambrose's own "Citizen Soldiers" to John Toland's "Battle" to Charles B. MacDonald's "A Time For Trumpets", yet this, too, is an excellent and inspiring cover of the events leading up to and including the Battle of the Bulge. This book follows in the vein of detailing at the unit level what the war was like for the man on the ground, and incorporates a lot of first person testimony a la Stephen Ambrose.
Thus, the reader is treated to a very thorough look at what the moment-to-moment experience was like from a number of the men who were there to fight it. As Col. Eisenhower was also a career military man following in his famous father's footsteps, he speaks with obvious authority and knowledge about the multitude of factors leading to the engagement on both sides, and one gains an appreciation for his expertise if not for his somewhat pedantic and limited writing skills. Still, the book is an interesting and accessible reading experience.
Of course, since I had already read a number of other titles covering the same ground, much of the material was repetitive, but my impression after finishing it was that "The Bitter Woods" is a very authoritative single volume on the campaign, and that it competes favorably with all the others, although I should not want to so limit myself to a single such source for this, one of the finest moments in American war history. It is stirring to read about the first hand experiences of the tired, overextended, and under armed units of the American forces as they first engage the overwhelming German juggernaut.
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28 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Alex Diaz-Granados on December 4, 2003
Format: Paperback
The Bitter Woods, historian John S. D. Eisenhower's insightful account of the Ardennes Counteroffensive in the winter of 1944, is one of the best books yet written about the Battle of the Bulge. Along with John Toland's 1959 classic Battle: The Story of the Bulge and the late Charles B. MacDonald's A Time for Trumpets, this volume is a must-read for World War II buffs.
The Ardennes Counteroffensive was the brainchild of Adolf Hitler himself. Even as Soviet forces raced toward Berlin from the east and the Western Allies advanced steadily toward the Rhine in the west, the Fuhrer squirreled away hundreds of tanks and artillery pieces plus thousands of soldiers -- some of them either old men over the age of 50 or young boys no older than 16 -- and planned a daring stroke reminiscent of the Third Reich's triumphs in 1939 and 1940. Three entire armies would strike the Allies in the "quiet" Ardennes forest region of Belgium and Luxembourg and drive to the crucial port of Antwerp. Hitler hoped to drive a wedge between the Anglo-Canadian armies in the north and the American armies in the south and cause inter-Allied political strife. At the very least, the seizure of Antwerp would slow the Allied advance just enough so Nazi Germany could develop "wonder weapons" and rain V-1 and V-2 missiles on London and other Allied cities. At the very best, the Grand Alliance would fall apart and Hitler might be able to negotiate a separate peace with Soviet dictator Josef Stalin.
But even though Hitler's offensive caught the Allies by surprise on Dec. 16, 1944 and created much havoc and confusion, General Dwight D. Eisenhower, supreme commander of the Allied forces, remained relatively calm.
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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful By kent beuchert on January 9, 1998
Format: Paperback
I've read this book more times than I can count. To me, that's the highest praise I can give. Eisenhower (the author) writes as an historian ought to, with no axes to grind in describing Montgomery's actions, etc. His firsthand knowledge of Army ways and wherefores holds him in good stead: the reader is being shepherded through the material by one in the know who always provides a down-to-earth rational perspective. The story he tells stands on its own as, alternately, a mystery, an excellent character study of the participants (particularly the commanders), and an exciting tale of an event that represented, in my mind, the climatic event of World War II in the European Theater.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By David Chesterman on June 2, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is considered one of the four great books on the Battle of the Bulge. The others are John Toland's Battle, Hugh Cole's official US Army History: The Ardennes: Battle of the Bulge and Charles B. MacDonald's A Time for Trumpets. I have read all but Hugh Cole's book and will review each of them.

The Bitter Woods starts with a good background of the breakout from the Normandy beachhead and takes you up the start of the Bulge. Eisenhower gives you a strategic view of the events leading up to the Bulge. He discusses the strategy that the Allies were using against the Germans. His book gives you much more background of the operations before the Bulge than either Toland's or MacDonald's.

As this book was written in 1968, the knowledge of the Enigma intercepts was not released yet. Eisenhower is still able to discuss the deception operation that the Germans were able to successfully conduct against the Allies.

Once Eisenhower gets to the battle he does a good job of taking you to soldier level battles. MacDonald does a better job but he doesn't set the strategic context as well as Eisenhower. All of these books are detailed enough that they keep you referring to the maps to understand what was happening.

Eisenhower also gives more details of other events that happened during and after the the Bulge such as the German offensive Operation Nordwind. Finally Eisenhower shows the strategy that led to the end of the war in Europe.

Eisenhower provides many details about the leadership. He personally knew them and his father was able to provide many personal details.
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